Saturday, February 19, 2011

Trained Observer

Having been in the fitness industry for as long as I have, a person becomes a trained observer at the human form and motion. Mistress often caught me staring at a people of both sexes, fit, unfit, tall, short, old and young and ask me what am I looking at. This is especially true with shapely women. While the vessel of a beautiful woman in revealing clothing on a summer day is visually appealing I was looking deeper and Mistress knew that. 

Rather than comment on a specific body part, I would say, "She has upper cross syndrome.""She has an anterior pelvic tilt.""She has a knee/ankle/foot problem." It made for a great party trick, when I after an hour or two of watching people I could tell them all the problems I think they have and sure enough more often than not, it was a past problem or current problem. 

Okay, I am not some Svengali here. What I do is as natural to me based on observation and training as it is the same for a cubicle worker who can scan a dozen graphs and see all the trends in the blink of an eye. I have put a tape measure around thousands of people, I have 10,000 hours of observing people from a scientific purpose and of course that is going to jump over to how I see John and Jane Sixpack walk around the mall. I would say that all great personal trainers or health motivators can do the same. Problem is most personal trainers are morons and couldn't create a great lifestyle program for a client on their own if they tried. Yes that is a dig, but so be it, truth hurts. Again I have a lot observation and personal experience here. 

Next time you're walking down the street and you notice that someone has rolled shoulders or the hips look like they tip forward just a bit too much for normal, you're becoming a trained observer. The bikini she's wearing is just window dressing. 

Friday, February 18, 2011

A surprise marathon and a small rant.

I probably should have scheduled the Lost Dutchman Marathon on my training schedule 16 weeks ago, rather than decide at lunch on Friday to run the 26.2 mile course on Sunday. Come to think of it, where is my training schedule? 

Okay, okay, before the masses rise up to decry my sanity, I'll confess that my role is to act as a pacer for a first time marathoner who only wants to finish. So my time will be dependent on the person I am helping. No ego, no clock. I do however need to be able to run 26.2 miles, which is never a given for anyone. But it will be okay. I will, right?

Funny enough, after deciding to do this and after telling my wife, (I wasn't exactly sure how that would go, still not), Mighty Mo and I went to RoadRunner Sports to get him new shoes and Lost Dutchman was doing packet pickup there. Hey it saved me a trip to the expo on Saturday to sign up because online registration had been closed down.  

I'm looking forward to the run but I was bit frustrated with the multiple comments to not fold the bib because of the new fangled timing chip on the back of it. A strip of magnetic tap six inches long runs vertically along both sides of the bib. Excuse me?  Don't fold it?  

First, its a bib and I have a habit of taping them to my beer fridge in the garage but I am not gentle with them. In fact it is about the very last thing on or in my body I care about during a race. I am not going to think of it like some ridiculous "8th grade sex ed, this chicken egg is your baby for a week item".  So if these strips fall off during the race, thats a design flaw not a racer issue. 

I remember when I crossed a finish line a volunteer would yell out your bib number and someone behind them would write it on a piece of paper with a pencil. Then you would argue with the RD after they screwed up your finish time because they couldn't read the writing. It sucked but it was the stubby pencil era and had worked for a couple thousand years. 

I remember when it was bar codes. Bib's where given to you with a perforated strip along the bottom that had a bar code on the front and you wrote in your race information on the back. When you crossed the finish line, you entered one of many chutes and someone would pull the strip off the bottom and run it under a time clock and the bar code held all your race data. That was pretty slick. 

Next came timing chips, a radio transmitter zip tied to a shoe, the runner stepped onto a mat at the start and finish lines and hopefully an extra couple on the course and it relayed your time and place to a computer. Not only did this help with correct times, it didn't count the time it took to get your start group to the starting line. So you have Clock Time, (when the race started for everyone) and Chip Time (When you stepped onto the mat)  If you borrowed one from the race like most people did, it was like signing out an M-16 from the supply room in the Army. It was like they were going to send IRS agents after you. Nothing worse than getting into an accident during the race and as your being carted off to the hospital some knucklehead running over with scissors to cut your chip off before you left. Can't lose that chip. Maybe I was an early adopter, maybe I went to the hospital a lot during races, but I was an early adopter of the ChampionChip. I loved it so much I bought one from the Arizona Road Runner Club. Still have it. 

Then we had to go 'green'. Timing technology evolved from zip tied plastic poker chips to a concert bracelet wrapped around your shoe laces. Now instead of a volunteer sitting on a bucket at the finish line staring at feet so they could cut chips from shoes, you got to do it yourself at home. Another was to keep volunteer numbers low, but it wasn't a 'green' move. At least the chips were reused. 

Now, I can't tousle my bib least I disturb my timing chip?  Good grief. 

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Stay connected to stay motivated.

Any good mentor will tell you that in order to get better at any task or closer to any goal, you must associate with like minded people. People who participate in triathlon find themselves in sort of a gray area. The sport as a whole is very supportive and encouraging but the individual events, especially at the longer distances, require a significant amount of personal training time. Sometimes this is exhibited in our four hour trainer sessions in front of the television or the before sunrise run. It is even hard to avoid when in a group setting, such as a Master's swim or open water (OW) swim. We converse before and after and between gulps of air treading water, the remaining time is in our heads. 

Coaches and especially tri teams are really good at keeping the triathlete motivated when it counts, in the down time.  Based on the nature of a triathletes mindset, once they are involved in the exercise they are engaged. But oh do we know how hard it is to get involved on some days. The alarm goes off at 4:15am for a Master's swim but the bed is so warm, or you have been invited to a bar Friday night but looking at a 50 mile ride leaving at 7am the next morning. Decisions, decisions. 

It is not enough to just be accountable to others, using them as an excuse to do or not do a training session. At some point you have to learn to be accountable to yourself and your goals. But in order to do that you need to stay motivated and that is hard to do internally for the weeks and months that one must prepare for some race distances. This is why staying connected with like minded souls, who can commiserate and celebrate and keep you looking forward to the next big thing. 

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Happy 2nd Birthday Mae

Two years ago I was terrified at being a father again. (Confession: I still am). Would she have the same auto-immune disease as her big brother?  How much more stress would I personally have with a daughter when a son was almost too much as it was. (Confession: I don't consider myself a very good parent).  Two years ago, I thought my world was dimming. Two years later, it gets brighter every day. 

My mother tells us that Mae is very much as I was as a child. She is bouncy, over confident, proud, fearless, rarely ever catches even a common cold. She is strong, restless and curious. In most ways of course she is her own person. She prefers watching her shows on the computer than the tv. Mae loves to sing and play musical instruments. She refused to sleep in a crib and never slept in a bed, she will only sleep on the floor on a foam pad. She is absolutely the worst waker-upper in the world and regardless if it was a long nap midday or a full nights sleep she wakes up crying and grumpy. A total drama queen, apt to fake cry while slowly laying down on the ground on her belly in a faux faint and going through the motions (though not the energy of a tantrum). Her love language is cold milk. While being a total girl with lots of stuffed animals, her security item is a jumble of silk ribbons held together with a knot. She hates having her picture taken (thus nothing current today). Mae must know where everyone is in the house and often unsolicited will bring soda from the refrigerator so you have something to drink. She already has a chore, she feeds the dog twice a day. 

Quite the traveler, Mae has already been to Europe, Disneyland, Alcatraz and other notable landmarks.  She loves to be outdoors. 

Happy Birthday our Pretty Pink Princess, Beautiful Butterfly. Your sweeter than pie. 

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Thinking about thinking about it.

I finally got the notice from Mistress that I should start looking for a new career before I drive her nuts.  So much for my Boy's of Summer rolling into actual summer. However she is correct. I am slowly de-evolving into a routine that is far to lax for me to handle for long and I lack (what little) mental stimulation I need to keep myself sane long term. 

I guess today I am preparing for career searching. You can tell because I went to a Starbucks to surf the net on my laptap and bought a $2.13 cup of coffee, rather than sit in my home office in my leather chair, use my 42" computer monitor and drink from my own pot of fresh brewed Starbucks that costs me about $0.20 a cup. Is this really progress?  

I have zero idea, none at all, at what career path I want to take. I have a non-compete agreement that pretty much locks me out of any field that provided me income for the last 15 years so I need to look elsewhere. Going through my "What do you want to be when you grow up" list, there is not enough money in archeology, helicopter pilot is a pretty hard career to get into at my age, Death Row executioner for federal inmates doesn't have any openings but I suspect the benefits package would be good.  

Adventurer is on the list. Not sure what that means. It could mean anything from finding a lost Amazon city of gold to finding the best place to eat Sushi in Wyoming. It could involve real danger that is experienced and reported, recorded and uploaded, or imagined and written about. Or a combination of those mediums. 

I could go into politics but honestly I don't like asking people for money. It's weird. It's also why I never got into Team In Training for endurance sports, or want my son selling candy bars or cookie batter to my friends so his teachers can buy Kleenex and hand sanitizer for the classroom. (Note to self: drop off Kleenex and hand sanitizer for Mo's class).

But this is only the prep phase, I can't think about what I going to do with the rest of my life this week, I have to road trip to California for a kick ass Superbowl party this weekend. Yes, I am driving 18 hours round trip for a party football. I am a simple man.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

WSJ link on Ironman distance training and family discord.

I think aside from injury the greatest mental detriment to an endurance athlete is family tension. The article linked below does an excellent job at explaining some of the more macro concepts of this tension especially by a wife with children whose husband is training for an Ironman and other ultra endurance events. 

"A Workout Ate My Marriage" 

To be an endurance athlete connotes a certain amount of selfishness and non-conformity. I find nothing wrong with this, but I am an endurance athlete. I also rely on my wife and family for support and as I mentioned previously, a lack of family backing of your endurance pursuits makes for a short term endurance athlete. While selfish we are not narcissistic and therefore when confronted by an endurance intervention by the spouse or family we go with family first over divorce. The WSJ mentions this.  My own empirical evidence supports this. 

The article however treats endurance training, specifically for Ironman, as some sort of drug addiction that  must be treated as a twenty hour per week defect.  This is not the case. Most Ironman athletes do not train year after year for the distance. And those that do, reach a level of fitness or personal knowledge that does not require the same amount of energy as the first iteration. Those training for their first Ironman event might very well be consumed mentally, emotionally and physically, investing most waking thoughts on the feat during the twelve months between sign up and starting line. After that, most Ironman athletes find that they have learned enough and trained enough to do the same distance on less training. I have personally seen people cut their weekly training hours in half and finish races faster than the first one. 
The bottom line of this article and lets face it, real life, is unrealistic expectations based on lack of communication within the family. The bottom line is that if endurance athletes do not involve their loved ones in the goal, then articles like the Wall Street Journals will continue to be written, and putting endurance training in poor light. 

I have written over and over regarding the Training Contract I have with my wife each season.  For Ironman we first committed to each other that I would do the race and it fit our budget all the way around for entry fee, gear and travel. Then we argued over everything from how many days a week I could get up before the sun to train and sleeping in so she woke up next to me (same issue in the WSJ article). We wrote in the fact that when I reminded her Friday night that I was riding a 100 miles Saturday she couldn't roll her eyes, get passive-aggressive or undermine my training by pleading a family commitment. 

Endurance athletes obsess about their training plan but verbalizes poorly to others which often leads to relationship turmoil. Part of our Contract states that at the beginning of each week I will write down my workout plan on our bathroom mirror in dry erase marker. It will include the day and estimated time of workout, what the workout is with distance or time, who it might be with and where. Then updated daily after completed. Furthermore, when it is written out ahead of time, the family can review for possible conflict and workaround. 

My wife cannot ignore my training and if she sees any conflicts that were not already established in the Contract we can discuss it. However, I would not change my training with less than 24 notice unless it conformed to an already established training hiatus like spouse work emergency or family momentous occasion. Birthdays and (actual) holidays I had to figure something out for the families benefit but I did not have to rearrange my usual long Saturday ride for my son's football game unless they made the play offs which we would not know when we made the contract. 

In summary, the WSJ writes a good article from the Iron Widow perspective but it does not adequately balance the athletes perspective. Nor does it address ways to bridge the gap between the endurance athletes goals and the time demands from the family.